When it comes to Google Ads, targeting the right audiences is one of the most important steps to a successful campaign. Google has billions of users, and in that large number, only a small percent are looking for the type of product you’re selling. Search campaigns make targeting easy. Simply choose a few keywords, set the match type to phrase and/or exact, and you’re good to go! Most of your ads will show on searches that are relevant to your product. But there’s another form of advertising on Google Ads that can reach a broader audience – the Google Display Network (GDN).
Display ads are the ad type that is shown throughout the GDN. They often appear on the side of the screen or on the banner near the top of the page (and sometimes both). However, unlike Search ads, Display ads aren’t triggered by keywords. Without targeting, Display ads can show up on almost any Google-enabled site. If you’re selling sports gear, you probably don’t want your ads showing up on a site for videos about computer processors. Luckily, Google has given us tools to make sure advertising dollars are well spent: Affinity and In-Market Audiences.
Affinity Audiences are groups of users segmented by Google, categorized on their interests and hobbies, and based on their searches and page views. A person who searches for movie reviews and recommendations often is likely in the Movie Lovers affinity audience. There’s a segment for investors, beauty enthusiasts, gamers, pet lovers, and many more interest groups. Google has many audience segments and dozens of sub-segments that they can place users into, which you can find here.
These audiences allow you to target users who have interests aligned with your product or service. Going back to the sports gear example, you can target users in the Sports & Fitness category. Let’s say you specialize in selling baseball gear and want to raise awareness for your website. You can choose to target users in the Baseball Fans group. This audience will have a smaller number of users but will be more aligned with the product, reducing wasteful spending.
Setting up your Affinity Audiences can be done in just a few simple steps. Once you have your campaign or ad group set up, go to the Audience section in the left-hand menu. There, you’ll find a button to Add audience segments, which you can do either at the campaign or ad-group level.
Switch to Targeting if you immediately want your ads to be shown to the audiences you choose. In the browse tab, you’ll find Affinity labeled as: what their interests and hobbies are.
Voila! You can now find the audience group or subgroup that you wish to target.
In-Market Audiences work similarly to Affinity Audiences. Only this time, instead of sorting based on affinity, Google has determined that the users are “researching products or services and actively considering buying something like what you offer as they browse.” As the name suggests, they are in the market to buy. The list of In-Market segments is large, and you have the option to target a broader category or a more specific sub-category. In-market targeting is great for finding people farther down in the buying funnel.
If you want to target in-market audiences, the set-up is very similar to setting up an affinity one. The difference is that instead of choosing the hobbies/interests label, you’ll choose: what they are currently researching or planning.
Once again, you’ll have dozens of different audience groups to choose from. You can choose to target as broad or specific as you like. Here we can actually target an audience of people in the market for baseball equipment.
Targeting audiences is always a balancing act. You need to find the right balance between large audiences that might be less relevant (but enable greater awareness building) or smaller audiences that might be more closely aligned with what you are offering. The best way to find the ideal audience is to test. Start out by choosing multiple audiences that are at least somewhat relevant to your product, and observe the volume and performance of each audience. Basically, cast a wider net, and then slowly reduce it as you get data to analyze.
While targeting audiences is more complicated than just finding the right keywords, the alternative is worse. The Google Display Network is massive, with billions of users. Without targeting, using Display advertising to find people interested in your product is an impossible task. With Affinity and In-market audiences, Display advertising is a valuable tool in your Google ads kit.